International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Prioritization of World News

What Syria’s Civil War Would Look Like in the West

A new video by international NGO, “Save the Children,” recently came out. The video marks the third anniversary of the conflict in Syria, in which over 10,000 children have died and over 2 million have become refugees. It features shots of a girl as she goes about her normal life over the course of a year, ending with the child celebrating her birthday in the context of what it might look like if the West was war torn like Syria.

The video does not necessarily promote peace for the sake of the future generation. Some people may criticize such works as something to stir emotions and pull heartstrings. The cinematography takes a spin to perhaps be more relatable for people in the West. Do you think this is effective in bringing more attention to the actual event? (in this case, the conflict in Syria)

NGOs have a big role in presenting the intention of justice in relation to the Tribunal but some documentaries and media projects are not well informed about the process of international justice and many may have misconceptions about it. Rather than bringing individual or group accountability, media attention can often reinforce the same divisions that divide countries during a war. News channels are often for-profit institutions that benefit from getting news out to people by numbers. What remains controversial in journalism is whether news should be based on viewership as much as what would be considered “newsworthy.”

The impact of creative international justice-related PSAs and interpretations of international issues can be vulnerable to misrepresentation and misunderstanding in the midst of garnering viewer support.

A case happening right now – even though Venezuela is only a couple hours away by plane from the U.S., news does not necessarily prioritize covering the Venezuela case compared to Ukraine.

In what ways do you see that U.S. and Western prioritization of certain parts of the news affecting the prioritization of involvement and aid in international justice?

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3 responses to “Prioritization of World News

  1. palomatraveler March 7, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Mass media in general affects the way in which people relate to certain conflicts. NGOs do carry a certain level of authority and viewers have knowledge of the mission statement and intent of the NGO prior to viewing any mass media issued by the NGO. News should not be based on viewership as much as what should be considered “newsworthy” It is important to note that there are such things as threshold effects meaning only events above a certain level of significance are identified because they reflect what the audience wants to read about or draw attention to (Taylor and Jodice 1983, 179).

    Increasingly NGOs operate outside existing formal frameworks and work independently to meet their goals hence are compelled to follow public opinion. The video produced was intended for a Western audience to bring awareness to the conflict in Syria.

    Causes that tend to have the most funding are likely to have a prioritization of involvement and eventual aid in international justice because cases with the most eyes on them tend to get heightened priority in terms of how quickly efforts are made to intervene in the conflict. Example perhaps Darfur, movements on Internet rose quickly, worldwide knowledge of atrocities as they were occurring, unfortunately did not immediately act upon them to stop violence. Analyzing different NGO videos begs the question, is the press permeable to efforts by civil society to influence content and do NGOs themselves perpetuate which world cases are deemed more pertinent than others?

  2. coreyinjuno March 10, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    In the context of bringing ‘attention’ to what is happening in Syria, yes tactics such as the video “save the children” are effective, but the downside to this could be the type of attention it brings. Much like with Kony 2012, many people were posting fb posts etc about it but really had no actual understanding of what really was going on and their ‘attention’ to it didn’t necessarily help in fixing or addressing the situation.
    While I do believe that media coverage definitely influences what current events U.S citizens’ may talk about day to day, I don’t necessarily think this transfers over to or directly influences what the U.S government generally chooses to engage in internationally. While there will always be certain international conflicts or atrocities that both the public and the government will agree require attention and action, many times this is not the case. This is not to say that the government does not care about what its citizen think, but rather that their [citizens] understanding of the situation isn’t always fully informed. Many times the ‘attention’ that international issues get from U.S media and citizens is not completely accurate or fully aware which makes their opinions a little less influential on government actions.

  3. tjojojojo March 17, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Ah, I was looking for a post on this video. While I agree with gracenote and coreinjuno that this video relies on short-term emotional appeal rather than actually informing the public, I do think that media attention like this has very useful indirect benefits. Even if the public is superficially informed (wouldn’t this be the case for most issues in public debate?), shifts in public opinion can have very profound ramifications on both NGO and state action towards the conflict. In this case, the video was quite well done and appealed to people emotionally (albeit in some regards it really was a “cheap shot”). If enough people were to be affected, then I think it’s quite possible that the likelihood of intervention in Syria might change.

    Regardless of how much contention there is around the extent to which people are misinformed and the extent to which key players even care about public opinion, I think that without a doubt public opinion exerts some influence, at least as much to be considered. As such, videos like this that could appeal to a mass audience and could shift their opinion might be incredibly useful in facilitating intervention, or at least making people more aware of an issue they may have previously brushed aside completely.

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